So then…I take a bite of Pralines & Cream at our little neighborhood Baskin-Robbins shop and ask my daughter Chloe, age 13, “So what do you think I should cook for dinner when the Donnellys come over Saturday?”
She nearly chokes on her Oreo 31 Below.
I shoot her a sharp glance.
She tries to recover quickly.
She loves me dearly but knows that cooking is not my forte.
“Um…let’s see,” she stalls. “There are lots of things you could make…um…”
“Well, what do you like that I cook?” I ask.
“Oh, I love your cookies and cakes and brownies and—”
“No, not what I bake. What I cook. What do you like that I cook?”
To be fair, my cooking repertoire IS fairly limited. I’m a woman of many talents, gifts, and skills (FAR too many to detail here) – but cooking’s not one of them. In fact, the main reason I’m asking her opinion is that I’m a bit anxious about cooking for the Donnelly family (or anyone, for that matter.) For potlucks, I always bake dessert. For my own dinner parties, I often order in or even (gasp) cater for the special occasions!
I’ve long envied the women who can whip up a delicious meal on a moment’s notice with the ingredients already in their pantry and fridge. I could try that – but it’d need to be meal that includes the typical staples in my house (Nestles chocolate morsels, mayonnaise, peanut butter, and delicious cheeses.)
My other cooking issue is that I have a fanatical fear of undercooking the meat. It probably stems from the first turkey I ever tried to cook — it simply WOULD.NOT.COOK. It was in that oven for hours and hours and hours – and no matter what, it never fully cooked. Honestly, it was traumatizing! The next year, I even ordered a PRE-COOKED turkey so all I had to do was heat it up — and it STILL didn’t cook through! Ever since then, I ensure we invite cooking relatives to our house for Thanksgiving — or invite ourselves to their homes. We’re working our way across America for each Thanksgiving and will probably be at your home soon.
So this is why I always order steaks/burgers/fish/etc well done at restaurants. And this is why I started crock-potting. Because if you put something in there at 8 am, it’s usually cooked through by 6 pm. In fact, some might say a little TOO cooked through. (And to them I say, “Well, fine, more for me, my friend. Help yo’self to the peanut butter and delicious cheeses.”)
Actually I make a fabulous tuna casserole.
My daughter Chloe abhors tuna.
She ate it maybe ONE time when she was about 5 – and to this day, anytime she can’t readily identify what I serve her, she’ll suspiciously ask me, “Is this tuna?”
“No!” I’ll say. She’ll poke it a bit, and ask plaintively, “Are you sure it’s not tuna?” As if I were serving her potentially poisonous pufferfish!
Honestly, I’ve never served that child tuna again since she was 5 – but she asks me at least once a month, with an accusatory tone, “Is this tuna?”
Add to this that Chloe’s a picky eater, so there isn’t much that she likes anyway. (Of course, her being a picky eater MIGHT be related to my culinary malfeasance…)
So you can see that this innocent conversation about what to serve the Donnellys on Saturday is a virtual minefield that Chloe’s trying to tiptoe through, so as not to offend my feelings – or God forbid, trigger a tuna dish.
“Well,” she says, “I like your porkchops.” (crock pot recipe)
“Yes, go on.”
“Um, I like your French Dip beef.” (crock pot recipe)
“And what else?” I ask.
“Um, your green bean casserole?”
“What!? You never eat my green bean casserole!” I say.
“Yeah, but I’ve heard it’s really good!” she says brightly.
“From whom?” I ask skeptically.
“From you!” she says.
“Oh, for God’s sake. Seriously? After all these years, that’s all you can come up with?” I ask.
“Well, I was gonna say, ‘You open a mean can of corn,’ but I didn’t want to offend.”
I bust out laughing. “Chloe!”
“Or ‘you order Honeybaked Ham well,’” she offers.
We both guffaw.
She’s right, of course. And she does love her some corn (as evidenced in the Embarrassing Book Club Incident)
We finish our ice cream and finalize the menu for Saturday:
green bean casserole,
canned corn –
and 3 – count ‘em, 3 – scrumptious homemade baked desserts!
Get ready, Donnellys, you’re in for a treat!
— Darcy Perdu
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(Is your child terrified of tuna? Or some other innocuous food? Are you a culinary master — or more of a baker like me? Can we come to your house for Thanksgiving this year?)